Putin just gave Russia’s post-KGB spy network a new job

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  • Russian President Vladimir Putin has tasked Russia’s FSB spy network with helping businesses counter Western sanctions.
  • The move follows increased Russian spy activity since Russia started the war in Ukraine.
  • It shows how Moscow is aiming to counter tightening trade restrictions from the West.

Russian President Vladimir Putin just gave Russia’s post-Soviet KGB spy network an assignment: counter Western sanctions and help Russian businesses expand into new markets.

On Tuesday, Putin — a former KGB agent himself — called on the Federal Security Service, or FSB, spy network “to provide support to our companies that are actively developing despite the obstacles created for them and which are exploring new markets but are faced with openly hostile actions” from the West, Reuters reported.

Putin’s instructions to the spy service at its annual meeting in Moscow followed his carefully engineered victory in Russia’s presidential election over the weekend.

It provides a glimpse into how Moscow is aiming to counter tightening trade restrictions from the West.

Russia’s economy appears resilient two years after starting the war in Ukraine. Russia’s GDP grew 3.6% in 2023 and the International Monetary Fund expects its economy to grow 2.6% this year. Unemployment is around a record low, and wages are soaring.

Russia has managed to keep its economy humming by pivoting its trade to alternative markets including India, China, and Iran. It’s even building rail lines to create what one analyst called “a trade route for pariahs” with heavily sanctioned Iran.

However, the West is closing up loopholes in its sanctions regime and ratcheting up pressure on global businesses still doing business with Russia.

On Tuesday, Putin himself admitted the sanctions have created “temporary problems for us,” but added he was sure “everything, of course, will be done anyway.”

Russia’s spy activity has hit the highest levels since the Cold War following Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, the Financial Times reported earlier this month, citing unnamed Western intelligence officers.

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